Friday, November 16, 2012

The most important race in Austin this weekend

Anyone who has seen any news recently knows* that this weekend, the city of Austin is hosting a Formula One event that is sure to attract the attention of millions (many of whom will be found in every hotel room from Temple to San Antonio, as well as stopping traffic in all lanes of I-35).

But very few know about a different event that will also take place in Austin.

Also occurring this weekend in Austin, a man is attempting to run for 48 hours.  In a row.

Like my friends Danny and Christy, this man--Ryan--and his wife, Ashley, are heroes.  Like Danny and Christy, they have already been blessed with two children of their own.  But Ryan and Ashley have felt a calling for some time to adopt not one but two children--siblings--from Ethiopia, where there are a lot of orphaned children.  Now, they don't know what two children they will be able to adopt, but regardless, they know that they definitely want to bring two children home with them.

As with Danny and Christy, Ryan and Ashley's main hangup is money.  And so Ryan, who happens to be a ultramarathon runner (he runs races of 100 miles!), came up with a unique fundraising idea.  He is going to run for 48 hours straight (and should have been running just over four hours at this writing) at the Runtex on Riverside Drive, and he has collected pledges per mile (he expects to run about 150 miles).

And the best thing?  He is not only going to raise money for himself and Ashley.  Instead, they have created an organization called 48 Lives, which intends to provide money for 48 children from Ethiopia to be adopted (including the two Ryan and Ashley want to adopt).

So go by Runtex if you happen to be in the area this weekend (I understand there might be one or two events in the downtown area) and say hello to Ryan.  Better still, go by and make a pledge.**  You'll be making a real difference in the lives of children who need your help.

And I think that's much more important than any other events that may be scheduled around here this weekend.

* And some of us have known for a long time.

** You may also pledge at the website, linked above.  (And yes, the author of this blog has already pledged to this worthy cause.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The adaptation of the institution

In the past week, I have seen statements talking about how a certain group needs to change, to adapt to a new cultural mindset in order to continue to be relevant in the 2010s.  There are statements documenting the fact that fewer people are aligning themselves with this group, and, moreover, that people are leaving it. 

You might think you know exactly which group I mean.

You'd probably be right.  And you'd probably be wrong.

Obviously, in the past week, we've seen lots of hand-wringing and second-guessing about the Republican Party's defeat in the 2012 elections.  Everyone (with the possible exception, thus far, of sixth-rate bloggers with no spare time) has had an opinion regarding what the GOP did wrong, and what they need to change (which has led, yet again, to Democrat strategists offering advice to Republicans...hey, do I tell you how to run your party?) in order to reach people.

But I have also seen people discussing, in hopefully a much more respectful tone, the plight of my particular denomination with regard to reaching people.  Questions have been raised regarding what we have done wrong and what we might need to change as well.

(Aside:  no, I'm not going to say which denomination is mine.  If you know me, you most likely know which one it is.  If you don't know me, but you think this applies to your denomination, then it most likely does.)

Honestly, I think both of the groups in question (Republicans and Christians of my denomination) have the same problems:

1.  Both tend to value being ideologically pure over being welcoming to others.  For Republicans, this has meant that a candidate must support any number of things, be it a no-tax-increase-of-any-sort-ever-ever-ever-we-mean-it pledge, expressing an interest in one's state seceding from the United States, not being amenable to gay marriage, or whatever.*  For Christians of my denomination, that has meant a devotion to tradition over, in some cases, God.  It has also meant that we have tended to believe that we alone have and know the way to God.

2.  Both have done a poor job of late in getting their messages out.  For Republicans, simply look at the large groups of people who would never vote for you/us.  For Christians, look at the even larger groups of people who would never darken the door of a church building.  Enough said.

But I think the main reason neither group has increased its numbers in recent years is the following:

3.  Neither group has shown that it values people.  And what I mean by that is that Republicans and Christians of my denomination far too easily dismiss large groups of people as not being worth their time.**  For example, take Mitt Romney's infamous "47%" line.  A lot of people saw/heard that quote and thought that Mitt Romney didn't think they were worth his time or consideration, and so they decided the same about him. 

And as for Christians...well, it's been said that the 10:00am hour on Sunday mornings is the most segregated time in the country.  (If nothing else, I just said it.)  Is God's message only applicable to people who look like me, who are of the same social stature as I, who make similar amounts of money, and so on?  Did Jesus come to talk to people like me, people who could be considered the "haves" of society?  Or did he talk to people who were not valued by the culture of the time, the "have-nots"...and in doing so, show that he valued them as people?  So why don't I do that? 

Or, for that matter, did Jesus engage people who did not agree with what he said, with people who thought he was crazy?  Why am I not doing this?

Obviously, at this point, this portion of the discussion has become about what I should do with living the faith I claim to possess, so let's go back to the political side of this, and I will get with my Christian friends offline to discuss how we can live like this.

We need to adapt.  We need to be better, obviously, at talking to people who are not like us.  We can't dismiss people, or assume how they think about issues.  As I believe I've said on this blog recently (not counting two paragraphs ago), we have to engage people, which also means that we truly have to listen to their concerns and desires, and in doing so, be able to empathize with them, or at least sympathize with them.***

For far too long, we have dismissed lots of people offhand.  And now we're reaping the fruits of that in their dismissal of us.  Because if we don't care about them or their concerns, they're not going to care about our thoughts on politics, faith, or, really, anything.

* At this point, I don't think any of those is a good idea.  Streamlining the tax code, which is desperately needed, might just cause someone's taxes to go up.  Those presently advocating seceding deserve as much attention as Alec Baldwin did when he threatened to leave the country after George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004--namely, none.  And haven't I already said enough about the gay marriage debate?

** Yeah, I'm generalizing too, just as these groups do.  But I don't think I'm dismissing...rather, I'd like to think I'm offering a friendly suggestion.

*** Actually, I guess this could apply to both of the groups I mentioned, so this is not just the political side.  This is what happens when I write long screeds using the make-it-up-as-you-go method.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A post-election prayer

Once again, the election is over.  Once again, things did not go the way half the voting population wanted it to go. 

As I've said on Facebook already today, it would be awfully easy to say "Who is John Galt?" and be done with this discussion, but I can't do that.  My faith won't allow it.

And so here are the things I pray for our nation today:

  • That President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the rest of our governmental officials--federal, state, local...Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, independents, whoever--would be blessed with wisdom.
  • That the winning side in this election does not engage in spiking the football, and that the losing side does not become a group of sore losers.  I've already seen some of both behaviors.  I pray it stops.
  • That a deeply divided electorate can discuss our differences civilly without demonizing the other side, be it as a bunch of rich white guys who don't care about anything except their own pocketbooks or as a percentage of the populace who want nothing other than to suckle at the teat of Big Government (and thereby, ironically enough, also care about nothing but their own pocketbooks).  Yes, our viewpoints are fundamentally different.  No, not everyone who disagrees with our viewpoints is stupid and/or evil.
  • That compromise will become a two-way street again.  Maybe no one has noticed this, but the Senate has stopped a lot of Republican legislation, including a lot of jobs bills, as well.  Don't pretend that compromise means only that the House needs to go along with the President.
  • That the Republicans will learn to build a consensus among themselves, rather than remain in factions which each appear to be more concerned about separate splinter issues than about America as a whole.  Hey, y'all, the economy is still lousy.  Unemployment is still higher now than in January 2009.  Focus on the main issue.
  • That Christians, liberal and conservative, will do more to help those who need it.  Government should not be the distributors of charity.  We should.  And, by and large, we have failed epically at this.
  • That Christians, liberal and conservative, will do much more to reach out to others.  Yeah, it's easier to go to Chick-Fil-A than it is to engage people with whom we don't agree.  But that doesn't mean it's the best thing to do.
What my friends and I (and we don't all agree on all issues) prayed hardest yesterday was for God's will to be done, and for us as Christians to do those things I listed above, and for more souls to be saved.

Let's keep praying.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Where did we go after 2008?

Four years ago today, I posted an entry named "Where Do We Go From Here?" which, apart from citing lyrics from an Alan Parsons Project song, spoke to what I wanted to see both sides do after the 2008 presidential election.

Four years later, did anyone take my advice?  (Heck, I rarely take my own.)  Let's see.  (Disclaimer:  I edited some portions of my own post for brevity.)


1. Now is the time to congratulate President-Elect Obama. Pray that God blesses him, and all our country's, and our world's, leaders with much-needed wisdom.

Well, some of us did that, others...not so much.  I'm gonna have to call this one a no.  Graciousness and politics rarely mix, and they certainly didn't mix for a lot of bitter Republicans.

2. That doesn't mean that there is not room to oppose the policies and programs desired by an Obama administration. Of course there's room for that. But there's a way to oppose a policy without tearing down a person. Our party absolutely lost that way with President Clinton, and the other side threw it back at President Bush fourfold.

I would say that opposition to the Obama Administration policies found its loudest voice in the Tea Party.  I will also definitely say that while I have seen some individuals making terribly racist remarks, most in the Tea Party, and Republicans in general, have opposed the policies without demonizing the opposition.  I'm gonna call this one mostly a yes, though I know that many, many people on the other side will disagree with me on this.

3. As several people have said, it is time to figure out what this party is going to stand for. The Contract with America was a concise message that resonated with voters in 1994. There was no message this time, and I would argue that what resonated with the base of the party this cycle was Sarah Palin.

I still don't think the Republicans know what they are going to stand for.  Mitt Romney was the "safe" choice and also benefited from the fact that the more conservative candidates for nomination either cancelled each other out or fizzled out due to incompetence or character issues.  Regardless, there is still an obvious schism between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives, and there is definitely also still no consensus among the economic conservatives as to what needs to be done.  Hopefully we don't have another 36 years to spend in the wilderness before we figure it out.*

4. And that leads to the next action item: do not let the MSM and quasi-conservative pundits tell you that the road to redemption starts with throwing Governor Palin under the bus. This is also not the time for finger-pointing; it is the time for action.

Absolute, utter failure on this point.  Sarah Palin was the one bright spot in the 2008 race, and for that, she was left to wither without support from any national Republican organization.  (Luckily, she had the savvy to start her own organization.)  And I've documented enough on this blog, for those who want to go back and relive the past four years, how many Republican pundits totally threw her under the bus and followed that up by insulting those people who agreed with her.**  Yeah, y'all are right up there with the MSM, guys.  Good job.

5. Like it or not, the other side holds a better hand at this time. There will be opportunities to work with them on items that are important to both sides. Don't capitulate on your basic beliefs, but work with Democrats to help this nation, 'cos things won't be any rosier on 20 January than they are now.

I would say that this was done sparingly, mostly on items like extending the tax cuts in 2010.  Mostly, I don't think either side wanted to consider anything put forth by the other.  Granted, a lot of the propositions put forward by the Democrats were anathema to the Republicans (and to me, really); those would not have been what I had in mind four years ago when I wanted Republicans to work with Democrats.

6. Absolutely, positively, don't be jerks about it. Yes, half the country disagrees with you. That doesn't mean they're any less intelligent or more evil, or that they hate this country. Do not sink to the level to which the other side descended four years ago. 

Again, some were gracious about it, some weren't.

7. Are you still relying on the MSM for news? If so, why? Seriously. There are few reasons left to continue to take a daily paper. Channels such as MSNBC have given us the likes of Chris "thrill up my leg" Matthews and Keith "get a shovel" Olbermann. Why watch them? Stay informed, of course, but understand that there are many sources of information other than the usual suspects.

To be sure, online news sources have mushroomed since 2008.  Heck, I'm not completely sure that I had even heard of Twitter at all in November 2008.  And that mushrooming is a good thing, given the reticence of most MSM sources to cover any portion of Benghazi.  But, honestly, there is still far too much genuflecting toward the altar of old-school media.

8. Hey, 2012 candidates? Don't take public financing!

Apparently, Mitt Romney did not take public financing.  And I think that helped him quite a bit.  Regardless, I guess spending a whole lot more money than in even recent years is the way to go in presidential elections nowadays.


1. Yes, by all means celebrate this win. You earned it, in all seriousness.

Oh, they did.  A lot.  Quite a few tried to dance on the Republicans' graves.

2. Remember that it is possible for people to oppose your policies without being evil capitalistic pigs. And while you're remembering that, phase out the use of the oh-so-original "rethuglicans", "republiKKKans", and the like. Now, please.

Absolute, total failure on this one too.  The last four years, unfortunately, have brought even more wonderful terms into the public square:  terms like "teabagger", "teatard", and the like.  GROW UP.

3. Please stop telling our party what positions and candidates we should support. (For example, I don't know how many times I heard some of you saying McCain should dump Palin because I lost count.) I mean, come on. I haven't seen any of our party telling you that you should run Dennis Kucinich and Michael Moore.

This still happens.  I seem to recall a ground-swelling of support for Jon Huntsman...from the MSM talking heads.  That would be the same Jon Huntsman who, when he exited the Republican race, basically disowned the Republicans en masse.  The same man whose daughter Abby now blogs for the incredibly left-leaning HuffPo.  (As always, HuffPo gets no link from me.)  And yes, I'm counting what the MSM does with what the Democrats do because, honestly, there's little difference between the two.

4. I know this will come as a surprise to the MSM, but bipartisanship does, in fact, include taking some ideas from Republicans. It's not a one-way street.

Nope.  Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote (though I will remind the reader that as some Democrats opposed it, it did have bipartisan opposition).  And who can forget our president saying "Elections have consequences, and I won," as he blew off Republican concerns?

5. Again, do not be jerks about it. And don't go around telling us our viewpoint is invalid because our side lost this one.

A mixed bag.  Some Democrats, to be sure, have also been gracious toward Republicans, but others have certainly not:  accusing every person voting against Obama of being a racist, of not caring about whichever the interest group du jour is...basically, the standard demagoguery.  And I certainly heard enough people saying that the Republican Party was dead in 2009 (though they ate their words in the midterms), and that those people who still dared to support conservative values were jerks, stupid, or whatever.  For that matter, I've read comments in the past month looking forward to when all these older generations who have the audacity to be conservative finally die off.  Charming.

So, how did things play out?  Way too much demonizing, not enough valuing of those who disagree as people.  Pretty much what we've come to expect, sadly enough.

* It could definitely be argued that our 40 years began earlier, when a very Republican Congress decided that taking President Clinton down at all costs was more important than reforming the federal government.  If no one else is saying it, I sure will.

** As I have said more than once, there were definitely those--and still are--who put all things Palin above everything else.  But that didn't and doesn't justify discounting the principles she has espoused.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Gracious winners and sore losers: a history

Four years ago, when Barack Obama won the presidential election, there was a site dedicated to reaching out to the losing side of the election, in what appears to be an attempt to work together.  That site was called "From 52 to 48", based on the percentages voting for President Obama vs. Senator McCain.  (No, those percentages are not correct, but that's irrelevant.)

A sample pic from that site:

(Hope you still are.  Courtesy "From 52 to 48" under Fair Use clause)

Some saw these messages as condescending, while others saw them as inspirational.   But regardless of how each individual picture was intended, it was at least a positive-sounding message from some Democrats to the Republicans.  A quick perusal of that site shows that a few Republicans responded with similar statements.

But would these people respond in the same way in 2012 if President Obama were to lose on Tuesday?  I wonder.  See, there was also another site, eight years ago, from Democrats apologizing to the rest of the world for reelecting George W. Bush.  That site, "Sorry Everybody", did not have the same uplifting message.  No, it was full of anger and, I dare say, hatred toward the people who did not vote for their side.

Here's a sample pic that, unlike many on that site, doesn't require editing to post on my blog:

(Now try apologizing to the 59,422,689 people you just insulted.  Courtesy "Sorry Everybody" under Fair Use clause)

Now, both my examples have been reactions by mostly Democrats, only because these were the only two sites I saw with pictures responding to presidential election results.  If there were any similar sites started by Republicans after the last two elections, I don't know of them.  I did, though, just remember that there have been more than a few people saying that they were praying for Barack Obama using Psalm 109:8:

May his days be few;
    may another take his place of leadership.

(Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.  Courtesy Biblica, Inc./ under Fair Use clause)

And I've decried that before as well, so I'm not being one-sided about this.

Regardless of who wins on Tuesday, which of these people pictured would you rather be, if in fact you had to choose between these two?  If your side wins, will you be gracious toward the other side, or will you demonize them?  If your side loses, same exact question.

Refocusing Snowed In

Anyone who has read this blog since its inception (a list that, in its entirely, most likely consists of the author's father) knows that it has never had what could be described as an overall focus.  The "Austin" portion of the site has involved many not-exactly-political topics that have virtually nothing to do with the political posts.  (And what was up with those songs?)

And--I could be wrong--but I'm pretty sure that successful blogs (i.e., those blogs not written by sixth-rate political bloggers) have some sort of real focus.  And, honestly, there are too many different topics here for a blog with entries so infrequent.  (Good grief, I haven't said a single word about the elections coming up in just days.  Okay, here's one:  Vote.  Actually, here are four:  Be informed, then vote.)

So it is, sadly, time to bid some of the topics/labels/whatever a sad goodbye.  We've already seen, as I mentioned previously, the departure of Day By Day, a daily web-based conservative comic strip that, while I like its general viewpoint, has had multiple editions that have not met the standards for which I am aiming these days.  There have also been widgets on the right sidebar that are, honestly, clutter.

So, what stays and what goes?  Here's a quick sampler of what's disappearing:

  • "Unfairly Forgotten Songs":  Sure, I like some weird songs.  But are they a force to effect change in the political climate?  Obviously not.  There was an easy solution to that, since I would like to continue that series:  a separate blog.  One with a focus, even!
  • Austin Radio:  I knew that it was not worth it for me to keep this topic up on my blog when I discovered that Jammin' 103.1 had been on the air in Austin for two weeks without my having heard about it.  In the future, I will leave this to the experts, specifically, which is very, very good about staying on top of all radio news.
  • Austin news media:  As before, I was going to point to someone who, for many years, stayed on top of this much better than I did, Jim McNabb.  However--and this again illustrates just how well I keep up these days--Mr. McNabb has recently written a farewell post on his blog.  However, two other good sources for news on the news media here are Gary Dinges at Austin360 and former local news director Bill Church, whose blog I hadn't discovered until just recently (to my shame).
  • The "I post at Austin Post" box has already disappeared.  As it turned out, the Austin Post has gone through some leadership changes, and, rightly or wrongly, it appears to have moved to a much more leftward slant (not counting the occasional libertarian post).  Posts that appeared in the "news" section (not "opinion") took to flat-out insulting at least one conservative (Governor Perry).  When I called them on it on Twitter, their response was to unfollow me.  And that's fine if that's what they want.  I just don't feel a desire to be a part of that site anymore.  Besides, the Austin Post has been mostly supplanted by CultureMap Austin, which also appears to slant leftward but is more upfront about it (though that site, to its detriment, also has a vitriolic anti-Dallas Cowboys columnist).  And CultureMap Austin has a much better presentation anyway.
  • And I'm getting rid of the comments widget.  When you post as rarely as I do, what's the point?
And what is left?  I'm not going to post a similar list of things staying simply because I can't say specifically what I am going to write.  To be sure, I still have strong political feelings on the federal, state, and local level, but I don't simply want to link other people's articles and write a line or two about it.  (That's what I have a Facebook page to do.)  When I write, I want to add a perspective that has not been getting as much attention.  (And that's exactly why I was happy when Sarah Palin entered the national political picture four years ago...she brought a perspective that was not coming from the national candidates before that point.)  So the political posts will definitely still be around, in some form or another, hopefully with some insight that makes this blog worth reading and not just another story aggregator.

And I obviously haven't been giving this blog the amount of attention that I have given it in years past, so I can't speak to the frequency of posts.  I'm not apologizing for that, either; more of my evenings has been spent with my two older children, both of whom have read-aloud books that, on most nights, they enjoy hearing me read to them, and my youngest child is still in the newborn phase and needs lots of attention from his father as well as his mother, so I think it's a lot more important for me to be there for all three of them.  (Additionally, on most nights, Mrs. Snowed also enjoys not having me on the computer in the other room.)  And all that means that you can expect to continue to enjoy sporadic posts from me, when I have the time and feel like writing anything.  (Of course, I might be more inclined to write were a few of you to hit the tip jar and ask for new material.)

One other thing about the future direction of this blog is that, as has probably been seen in more recent posts (of which there has been a dearth), is that no matter what subject I am discussing, I want things to be uplifting, and that has caused me to think much harder about the topics about which I want to write.  I believe that this can be done while still discussing political topics on which the country is divided, or at least I'm gonna try to do it.

So, with all that said, I don't know what this blog will look like in the future, but hopefully it will be worthwhile.  Hopefully you, the reader, will stay tuned through whatever journey this blog is taking.